… justify their own cruelty and control as some imaginary necessary protection against everyone else? Is it because they lack power and so are not able to be the oppressors and at the same time they cannot claim to be oppressed so they assume the victim identity because there is no other identity left for them?
Maybe. Who knows? Regardless, it is their responsibility to admit their profound privileging and stop pulling attention to themselves at all times. Any anti-racist work will require they decenter themselves, and this will require admitting their profound privilege so that they can move forward to behaving in proper anti-racist ways.
We see the results of their refusal to perceive their privileging accurately in these ways, one in personal and the other in social/collective contexts.
In my personal life, our group of 5 WOC, just in the last several years, have started meetings that don’t include white women. This is because the ones in the group — even though they considered themselves liberal — still ultimately defer to their whiteness and ‘merit’ in order to protect themselves. To some extent, these women always choose themselves even when the alternative is the only moral and decent one. With the five of us, none is doing this to the other, so we all feel equal. White women should NEVER ask why they are being excluded if they are simultaneously protecting their privilege through self-deception.
In the public arena, we see that the Women’s Marches attendance in the US, which peaked at millions around the time of the 2016 election, decreased significantly in the last few years — to hundreds or at most, thousands. This is because women of color of all kinds witnessed the beating and ostracism of Tamika Mallory and realized that these marches aren’t about WOC, they are only about protecting white women (two of the five women are black, one African-American and one Nigerian, but ALL of us WOC in our group, including the three non-black ones, agree). Again, white women should not expect that WOC will attend a march that primarily — or perhaps only — exists to serve the needs of white women.